BECHUKOTAI — Most Americans have warm homes and enough to eat. Their children have many toys to play with. And yet, there are many people here in America and around the world who don’t have enough. Some of those people we pass on the street each day. Others are living in the margins in substandard housing or shelters. Children notice the discrepancies between those who have enough and those who don’t and try to make sense of it. Early on in their lives children can learn what it means to try to help those who don’t have enough. In this week’s...Read More
BEHAR — “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” This ditty, often recited by kids when they are called names, is designed to protect a child from the meanness of other children. But, words, truth be told, are powerful weapons. Indeed, it would be more honest to chant: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can hurt me!” Children are especially vulnerable to the words of another. In our Torah portion this week we are enjoined “not to wrong one another”, meaning not hurt one another with words. Instead we are to consider...Read More
EMOR — We spend a lot of time reminding ourselves how important it is to be kind to one another. We speak about seeing each person’s humanity and treating others the way that we would want to be treated. But what happens when that “other” is not a person but an animal? We must remember that respect for the living creatures in this world is also an important value. This week’s Torah portion includes laws about properly treating animals. The very fact that these laws exist says a lot about Judaism’s appreciation of the role of animals in our...Read More
ROSH HASHANAH — Rosh Hashanah is perceived as the Jewish New Year, but it is so much more than that. It is time to reflect on the quality of relationships with friends and family and compare yourself to the way you were a year ago. Rosh Hashanah, according to the tradition, gives you a time to make amends to family and friends. Use the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah to go through a process of introspection and evaluation with your family, thinking and talking about habitual problems and conflicts that are difficult to change. Seeing other family members,...Read More
SHOFTIM — Dr. Seuss introduced us to the children’s book The Lorax, his 1971 children’s book that was recently remade into feature-length film. The Lorax tells the story of how the environment is destroyed by human activity and ambition. We hear the unforgettable voice of the gruff but wise Lorax, who says to the greedy Onceler. “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues!” Like the Lorax, we too learn to speak for the trees in this week’s Torah reading. Portion Shoftim includes the mitzvah to protect fruit trees from destruction. Trees should not be chopped down for the benefit of humans. This mitzvah...Read More
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